The old expression that homemade is always best is proven right once again. Homemade Vanilla Extract not only smells stronger than store-bought, but it’s also more flavourful. All you need are two ingredients and a whole lot of patience! But, it’s worth it!
Let me share with you, Dear Reader, how my mind works. It will help you understand why I took the time to experiment with making a Homemade Vanilla Extract. Last year, I was looking for a bottle with a pop top lid – like the one you see in the photos here. I just had to have it! You see, whenever I plan to photograph and post recipes, I think long and hard about how I want to present them. And, I knew my Sweet Heat Chili Sauce needed to be photographed in one of those bottles.
So, I searched high and low on the internet to find them. Because of the fact that last summer we were still in lockdown mode here in Ontario, I had to rely on the internet for just about everything! I managed to find the bottle on Amazon. But, there was a problem. I could not find a source for just one bottle. All I could find was a set of twelve. I ended up buying them anyway.
Months later, it really started bothering me that I had these bottles in my canning pantry and had no plans to use them. So, with a pen and notepad in hand, I began to jot down recipe ideas that could be photographed in the bottles. That’s just how I stumbled on the idea of homemade extracts. So, I started with vanilla, because it’s easy to make, and probably the most used extract in the world of baking. So, this Homemade Vanilla Extract is being brought to you because of a bottle. That’s how my mind works.
HOMEMADE IS BETTER – ISN’T IT?
Even though homemade is usually always better, there are a few things to consider before making your own vanilla extract at home. First and foremost is the cost. Whole vanilla beans are not cheap! But, then again, neither is real vanilla extract.
Most of the vanilla extracts that you find in grocery stores are imitation extract. If you were to do a cost comparison with imitation extract versus real vanilla extract, you would note a significant increase in price. Most of the local stores in my area that stock both are usually priced less than $5 for imitation and $35 and up for the real deal. Is it worth it? I’m going to say yes and no – depending on what you want to use the extract for. Let me explain!
REAL VERSUS IMITATION
The Spruce Eats website explains that the price of pure vanilla extract is high, but it is due to the fact that it uses real vanilla beans. The best vanilla beans are the products of orchids that grow only in tropical climates. Pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during extraction. The extract must be 35% alcohol to meet FDA standards. These are the minimum requirements.
By FDA definition, a pure extract means that the vanilla flavour can only come from vanilla beans and nothing else. This draws a definitive line between pure extract and imitation vanilla. Pure vanilla extract has no added sugar or corn syrup, and will last forever, aging like a fine liqueur. The older the extract, the better it becomes!
Imitation vanilla is made from artificial flavourings, such as wood byproducts, which might contain chemicals. People with discerning palates usually find that imitation vanilla products have a harsh quality with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Imitation vanilla is typically made with synthetic vanillin extracted from wood pulp, so you forgo the gentle vanilla hint that you’d get with the real deal when you opt for imitation. In other words, pure vanilla extract packs more into less.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE VANILLA EXTRACT
Here’s the scoop! Making your own extract is not fun. It takes less than five minutes of your time, so if you’re looking for some quality time in the kitchen, maybe you should pick another recipe to accompany this one. You will need only two ingredients, and even they don’t need to be measured precisely.
In it’s most basic form, you will need 4 or 5 grade B vanilla beans and about 1 1/2 cups of vodka. You will also need a very clean bottle with a tight fitting lid or seal. Be sure to clean the jars first. Just wash them in hot, soapy water and rinse off the soap. Place the bottles in a large metal bowl and cover with boiling water from a kettle. This will ensure they are sterilized and ready to be filled.
To start, you will need to open the vanilla pod. To do this, lay the pod flat on a cutting board. Hold the pod down by pressing your index finger down firmly on the stem. Using the tip of a paring knife, start at the top of the pod, just below your finger, and pull the knife down the length of the pod to open it up. Place the opened pod into the bottle. Lastly, insert a food funnel and top up the bottle with vodka. Put the lid on immediately.
STORING AND USING
Once you have prepared the extract, store it in a cool, dry place with very little light. I have a canning pantry and it’s quite cool so I just set the bottles in there. From the time you pour the vodka over the vanilla beans, you will need to wait at least 2-3 months before the extract is ready. This will allow the beans to soften and release their scent, flavour, and colour into the vodka. It is a good idea to gently shake the bottle every few days.
Once the extract is ready to use, you can use it just like you would imitation extract. Once I open the extract for the first time, I like to keep it stored in my fridge. There’s really no reason for it, but my mom always kept her extracts in the fridge, and that’s exactly where I store all of mine.
You can top up the jar with more vodka every time you take some out. This will ensure that you have a full supply of vanilla extract at all times. Now, if you make this extract now, it will be nice and strong by the time Christmas baking rolls around!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- Sterilized bottle with lid
- 1.5 cups vodka
- 4-5 whole grade B vanilla beans
- To start, you well need to open the vanilla pod. To do this, lay the pod flat on a cutting board. Hold the pod down by pressing your index finger down firmly on the stem. Using the tip of a paring knife, start at the top of the pod, just below your finger, and pull the knife down the length of the pod to open it up. Place the beans into the bottle.
- Lastly, insert a food funnel and top up the bottle with vodka. Put the lid on immediately.
- Once you have prepared the extract, store it in a cool, dry place with very little light. From the time you pour the vodka over the vanilla beans, you will need to wait at least 2-3 months before the extract is ready.
- You can top up the jar with more vodka every time you take some out. This will ensure that you have a full supply of vanilla extract at all times.